I've always loved the excitement that surrounds celestial events. While some happen often and others not-so-often, every time one occurs, it always feels like there's a little bit of magic in the air. And in advance of the super blue blood moon on Jan. 31, that is definitely what I'm feeling — after all, three unique lunar events are set to happen at once, and it'll be the first time in over 150 years that those three events — a super moon, a blue moon, and a total lunar eclipse — will have occurred at the same time. But, let's say you miss the super blue blood moon when it rises on Jan. 31. When's the next time you'll be able to see any of the above lunar happenstances that'll be occurring on Jan. 31? For instance, when is the next total lunar eclipse in 2018?
Luckily, though it's a rare occurrence, it's far from once in a lifetime — so don't freak out too much if you don't catch it on Jan. 31.
First, let's get a little bit of background. How does a total lunar eclipse happen? Also known as a "blood moon" due to the reddish tint it casts on the moon, a total lunar eclipse occurs when the moon becomes completely shrouded from the Sun thanks to the Earth's shadow — and it reaches totality when the Sun, Earth, and the moon are perfectly in line with one another. The Earth blocks any sunlight from reaching the moon, resulting in that reddish, "blood"-like color that prompt people to refer to the moon as a blood moon. Additionally, a total lunar eclipse can only happen when there is a full moon.
Fortunately, if you miss the Jan. 31 total lunar eclipse, you don't have to wait very long to see the next one. According to TimeandDate.com, the next total lunar eclipse will take place on Jul. 27 — and if you're in the southern part of North America, Europe, Asia, South America, or Australia, you'll be able to see that eclipse's path of totality.
For Americans hoping to see a total lunar eclipse in the states, they'll have to wait until Jan. 20, 2019, when the world will witness another total lunar eclipse. In other words, it'll be less than a year before the next total lunar eclipse is visible in the US of A.
One thing to note, though: The Jan. 20, 2019 eclipse is one you definitely don't want to miss, because, even though three total lunar eclipses are happening in 2018, this is actually pretty abnormal. In fact, the next total lunar eclipse after Jan. 20, 2019 won't be until May 26, 2021. So, 2019 might be your last opportunity for a while. (This extended wait time is due to the fact that lunar eclipses are less common than solar eclipses.)
Interestingly enough, while the moon was formed about four and a half billion years ago, it has since been slowly inching away from Earth — not that much that it's noticeable, of course, but in space terms, it's still a phenomenon that's worth being recorded. And its current placement right now actually puts it in the perfect position for a total lunar eclipse — the shadow of the Earth will perfectly shroud the moon due to its distance. As it continues to move away — don't worry, I'm talking millions or even billions of years from now — this won't be the case.
So, if you happen to miss Jan. 31's super blue blood moon, go ahead and mark your calendar for Jan. 20, 2019, or even Jul. 27 if you'll be outside of the US — another total lunar eclipse will occur on those dates, and they won't be ones to miss.